The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is preparing for B.C.'s new Energy Step Code (ESC) with an amendment to its building and plumbing regulation bylaw.
The ESC lays out an incremental and consistent set of regulations that will lead to more energy efficient buildings—step by step.
After months of engagement with stakeholders (including builders, real estate, trades, architects and more), the RMOW is recommending that Whistler move straight to Step 3 of the ESC for Part 9 residential buildings, but to delay the "effective" date until Jan. 1, 2019.
"The ESC in some respects is really a consistent, predictable road map to a future in which all construction is built to the highest possible levels of performance," said director of corporate, economic and environmental services Ted Battiston, in a presentation to council on July 10.
"In that sense, it charts our course to the net zero energy construction that's desired by 2032."
While Whistler's greenhouse gas emissions were on a steady decline until 2012, the trend has since reversed course, with GHG emissions increasing in each of the last three years.
"Preliminary data, I can tell you for 2017 ... suggests about another two or three-per-cent increase," Battiston said. "That's at least partly driven by 2017 being one of the colder winters of the last 10 years ... driving up some of the heating loads, which this kind of policy directly works towards."
While passenger vehicle emissions still represent the largest share of emissions locally at about 60 per cent, buildings account for about 35 per cent themselves, Battiston noted.
Buildings also account for 65 per cent of all energy used in Whistler, with energy expenditures approaching $50 million annually.
"So from a climate, energy, infrastructure and cost perspective, there seems to be ample reason to aspire towards more energy efficient buildings," Battiston said.
The bylaw—given first three readings at the July 10 meeting—will effectively mandate that all new Part 9 builds (typically single-family units, duplexes or small multi-family buildings) be 20-per-cent more efficient than current standards.
Builders will need to prove to building officials that the building meets or exceeds the new standard.
"The ESC approach eliminates the prescriptive energy requirements of the BC Building Code," Battiston said. "Instead of prescribing what builders and developers must do, it tells them the level of performance they need to reach and it puts the ball in their court in how to do it."
Right now the new bylaw will only apply to new builds (of which there are about 40 or so a year), but the RMOW will continue to provide Power Down Home Energy Assessment incentives and support the provincial government's upcoming Home Renovation Rebate-Retrofit Partnership Program to keep the existing infrastructure moving forward.
"Right now for existing buildings we're still in that incentive phase—we're trying to shift the market by incentives and awareness and so on and so forth," Battiston said.
"As staff we very much understand that existing buildings, that nut has to be cracked. In the short term, incentives and trying to change the market place through the financial incentives is the tool that we have available."
Find more info at www.whistler.ca/stepcode.
WOULD COUNCIL BENEFIT FROM MORE CECAP REPORTING?
A motion presented by Councillor Sue Maxwell at the July 10 council meeting asking for more consistent reporting on climate actions and energy use was deferred to the Aug. 14 meeting.
Maxwell's motion asked for quarterly reporting on actions undertaken from the Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) as well as data on emissions and energy use, as available.
But other councillors worried about the staff workload involved with more reporting.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) commits to annual reporting, and the reports typically take a month to produce, Battiston said.
"That is not easy to generate, it comes from the utilities at an annual basis, so generating the data to support those reports is challenging to bring forward any more regularly than once per year," he said.
"We commit to annual reporting, and that's not something that all other communities do ... but increasing it would be challenging from a workload perspective."
Maxwell said her resolution isn't necessarily asking for a month's worth of data each time, but it would be helpful to have consistent updates on actions underway related to climate change.
"In December, the report that we received then, we certainly seemed to have a lot of actions happening on the ones that are in the sphere of control of the resort municipality, but there's also a lot of actions in that plan that are meant to be done with partners ... when we're only working within the sphere of control of the municipality, we're missing a lot of opportunity and we're also taking a lot of time," Maxwell said.
"I think given that this is going to be the bigger long-term crisis that's going to impact the community, that we need to make sure that we are on top of where that plan is and what the actions are that are taking place."
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was recently given an update on the CECAP, noting that 14 of 19 proposed actions relating to infrastructure services are now substantially complete, including strategically expanding the Whistler transit system and advancing work on regional transit.
"So I think a simple question could be asked of staff periodically as to how we're doing with actions," Wilhelm-Morden said.
"We don't need to require a quarterly report of actions and energy usage, particularly when we've heard that we're getting this info on an annual basis already."
But it would be helpful for the rest of council to see consistent updates as well, Maxwell argued.
"Already, there's been a report to the mayor, although not to the rest of us, about the number of actions that have been taken already through infrastructure services, which is great, and that's the kind of report that I would hope that we would get," Maxwell said.
"(That way), we as a council, if there's some sort of problem, can sort of hear about it early rather than wait a whole year to be like, 'Well you know, we didn't have enough staff for it, or this partner didn't want to participate.'
"Those are all kind of things that if we knew about them ahead of time we might be able to take some steps to mitigate them, and it's also just good management practice if you want something to be delivered to plan—you need to monitor and make sure that it is getting delivered."
An update on the CECAP will come to council on Aug. 14, including Whistler's annual emissions and energy usage for 2017, after which council will vote on Maxwell's motion.